17 Oct 2019, 12:15
Sven Egenter Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Tracking progress of Germany's 2030 climate action package

Germany's government parties present the Climate Action Programme 2030 in Berlin. Photo: Bundesregierung / Bergmann
Germany's government parties present the Climate Action Programme 2030 in Berlin. Photo: Bundesregierung / Bergmann

With its Climate Action Law and the Climate Action Programme 2030, Germany's government coalition has presented a far-reaching climate strategy that is aimed at putting the country on track towards reaching its climate targets. The policy package contains crucial measures such as introducing a price on carbon emissions in the transport and buildings sector but from the onset has also been criticised for lacking ambition and being insufficient to meet climate targets. Follow the debate as well as politicial and legislative progress made regarding the climate package in this regularly updated news overview. [UPDATE adds DIW assessment, cabinet decision on first tax code changes.]

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For a deep dive into the climate package's origin and the debate around carbon pricing in Germany, take a look at the CLEW dossier Climate cabinet to put Germany back on track for 2030 targets.

17. October

  • The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) said the government’s plan for carbon pricing will not be enough to meet the 2030 emission reduction targets. A higher starting price than the proposed 10 euro per tonne CO2 would help to meet the targets more effectively and to avoid high costs for Germany from the purchase of emission rights. The researchers also found that low-income households face a larger burden than high-income households.

16. October

  • The government adopted several legislative drafts to mould the decisions into tax laws and decided details concerning the design of the planned CO2 pricing system. The draft includes tax deductions for energy-efficient modernisation of buildings, higher tax-deductable allowance for commuters, an introduction of “mobility premium” for low-income commuters, lower VAT on train tickets, higher air traffic tax and possibility for local communities to introduce higher property taxes for wind parks.

14 October

  • The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) have presented a joint assessment of the government’s climate package. The two institutes say that the plan is not enough to reach the 2030 climate targets, criticise the low entry-level price for CO2 emissions in the transport and buildings sectors and condemn the “weak design” of monitoring by an expert commission.
  • The commission's design was also criticised by analysts Johanna Schiele and Hanns Koenig for think tank Dezernat Zukunft. The German government would be well-advised to use the UK’s Committee on Climate Change as a model for setting up the expert commission. Schiele and Koenig called for stronger independence of the experts from the government and the right of initiative to write reports when deemed necessary.

  • North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Armin Laschet (CDU) has called on the federal cabinet to adopt the planned coal exit law by 20 November at the latest, reports the Rheinische Post. This was necessary to be able to adhere to the timetable proposed by the coal exit commission at the start of 2019, said Laschet. Ending coal-fired power produciton is an important part of the government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector, laid out in the Climate Action Programme 2030.

11 October

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has complained that "miserably long planning and licensing procedures" are a major factor for the deficiencies of her country's climate policy. At an event by labour union IG Metall, Merkel said that protracted procedures partially are justified for constitutional reasons but argued that necessary administrative capacities had been reduced in recent years and that the urgency of different projects had not always  been appreciated. Merkel defended her government's decision to opt for an initial carbon price of ten euros per tonne. "Acceptance is always important in a society in transformation," she said, adding that the pricing scheme's effects would became quickly visible in the 2020s.

  • German automotive industry researcher Ferdinand Dudenhöffer has called for a substantial fuel price increase of 20 cents per litre to accelerate the transition towards electric mobility. "Prices at the petrol pump have the greatest effect. Car drivers are confronted with the cost of CO2 every day there," the well-known researcher of the University Duisburg-Essen said in an article by news agency dpa carried by Focus Online. Dudenhöffer says higher fuel prices would address the polluter directly, whereas the German government's approach to support the transition to e-cars with a buyer's premium meant that "everyone – also the 80-year old pensioner – will see their tax money go to those who emit CO2, the car drivers, to encourage them to change”.

  • Reaching Germany’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030 will be very difficult, said Lower Saxony state premier Stephan Weil at a discussion on the energy transition in the industry sector in Berlin. Over a 30-year-period, Germany will likely have lowered emissions by about 35 percent by 2020. “If we manage to reduce the remaining 20 percent over ten years, I won’t worry about the rest. But the next ten years will be very difficult, very hard,” said Weil. Reaching the target is “the key sociopolitical issue of the coming ten years”, he added. Weil called the federal government’s climate package “in sum a great step forward”, but criticised that the planned entry-level price for CO2 emissions in transport and buildings is far too low. The plan, therefore, “falls short at a highly symbolic point”, and Weil said he hoped the legislative process would still change this. “No law leaves the parliament the same way it has entered it, and I would be surprised if it were any different with this one,” he said. Weil also criticised that during the past two years the economy ministry has done too little regarding the energy transition. “That was a massive mistake.”

10 October

  • The acting leader of the governing Social Democrats (SPD), Malu Dreyer, has said the climate package's measures "will bring a lot of changes for everyone individually – be it heating, driving or travelling”. Dreyer said even those who are ready to make their everyday lives more climate-friendly could not cope with all measures at once. "If you have to finance a new heating system, you cannot just buy a new and more climate-friendly car," Dreyer said, arguing that this was the reason why the government had chosen a "moderate" entry into carbon pricing. She insisted the climate package would mean "a paradigm change" in German climate policy and that everyone would "have to brace for much bigger things in the next years if we do not manage to make our actions more climate-friendly”.
  • The new head of Germany’s service sector labour union Verdi, Frank Werneke, has criticised the government's climate programme for being "much too hesitant" and not developing "an ecologic steering effect”. Werneke told news agency dpa that the package did not provide for social balance mechanism. "Wealthy people and those with high incomes are being spared once again," Werneke said, arguing that the bulk of expenses would be covered through consumption taxes and levies from the general public. He also criticised that public transport played a much smaller role than electric cars. "I have my doubts if the government's main plan seems to be smothering the country in e-car charging stations."

9 October

8 October

  • The state premier of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil (SPD), has criticised the planned price on carbon emissions of 10 euros per tonne as a "drawback" in the government's climate package. A price equal to that of three or four beers would not be a fitting symbol, Weil said. However, he added that a cautious handling of industrial policy was warranted. "If I say that combustion engines should be gone within ten years, I drive the country's most important industry into a wall. It would be little wonder if a yellow vest movement like in France comes up in Germany as well," he said

7 October

  • The Green Party's leadership has tabled a main motion for the next party conference in November titled "Act now! Measures for a climate-neutral country", in which the party proposes alternatives to the government's "disappointing" climate package. Party leaders say their "radically realistic" plan includes an entry price for carbon emissions of 40 euros per tonne that should be introduced "as an immediate measure" and rise to 60 euros by 2021. Further increases should then be decided by an "independent council" until a joint European solution has been found. In return, the Greens want to substantially lower the electricity tax and introduce an "energy allowance" to avoid social hardships.

4 October

  • CSU steps on the brakes – The Christian Social Union (Bavarian sister party of chancellor Merkel’s CDU) prevented the federal cabinet from adopting the in-depth Climate Action Programme 2030 in a meeting on 2 October, reports Tagesspiegel Background. Alexander Dobrindt, head of the CSU in federal parliament, said time was too short to read the final version. An environment ministry spokesperson said: “As long as it’s decided in cabinet next week [9 October], no harm is done.” The government plans to adopt all relevant legislation in cabinet by the end of the year.

  • The latest draft of the planned in-depth Climate Action Programme 2030 – seen by Clean Energy Wire – incorporates the government’s climate package decisions from 20 September. Contrary to earlier versions, it no longer contains the provision to increase annual wind power expansion targets, but only capacity goals for 2030 (67-71 gigawatt installed capacity, up from about 53.5 GW today).

  • The Fridays for Future protest movement has called the German government‘s climate package decisions from 20 September “a political declaration of bankruptcy” in an open letter to the climate cabinet and party leaders of the grand coalition. “To sell this as a success is a slap in the face for all protesters for effective climate action,” the group writes, highlighting the major global strike on the same day. “Our society is much more progressive in terms of climate action than your federal government and prepared to support the necessary measures.” Fridays for Future calls on the government to fundamentally re-work the climate package, and says “we will protest until you act”. The group has announced it will organise another major global protest on 29 November, days ahead of the start of the UN climate conference COP25 in Chile.

2 October 2019

  • Economic institutes criticise German government’s climate package: In choosing to implement a carbon price for transport and buildings, the federal government has bet on the right instrument in its 2030 climate package, but the planned price for the years 2021-2025 “seems little ambitious,” states the Joint Economic Forecast, published by Germany’s leading economic institutes.
  • The federal cabinet has decided on a supplementary budget to finance the climate action package presented on 20 September. The government expects CO2 pricing in the buildings and transport sectors to bring in 18.8 billion euros by 2023.

  • The government has announced that it will decide the in-depth Climate Action Programme 2030 in a cabinet meeting on 9 October, reports news agency Reuters. That programme will hammer out some details left out of of the climate package announced on 20 September. The ministries were not able to come to an agreement in time for today’s cabinet meeting (2 October), as originally planned, writes Reuters.

  • Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party, told Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that she expects the Green Party to offer concrete climate action proposals with a price tag, instead of “simply saying that this is not enough”. The Green Party has been critical of the government’s proposed climate action package, and will have a chance to weigh in during the upcoming legislative process. The Green Party is part of the government coalitions in many German states, and the council of state governments (Bundesrat) has to approve parts of the planned legislation from the government’s climate package.

1 October 2019

  • The German government expects CO2 pricing in the buildings and transport sectors to bring in 18.8 billion euros by 2023 for its climate action package. Finance minister Olaf Scholz wants to ensure the package's implementation through a supplementary budget to be approved by the federal cabinet on 2 October. A main part of the draft budget, seen by Clean Energy Wire, is an economic plan for the country's Energy and Climate Fund, which is set to grow from 6.1 billion euros this year to 11.75 billion in 2023. Revenues from the European trade of CO2 allowances in energy and industry (EU ETS) are expected to raise an additional 14 billion euros, according to the draft.

  • The targets for renewable power consumption and wind energy expansion on land set by the German government's new climate action package require a significant boost, NGO WWF has said in a position paper.
  • German public transport consultancy kcw welcomed that the climate action package emphasised shifting motorised road traffic to rail, public transport and bicycles in an assessment of the plan. However, it criticises a lack of a concrete goal for the modal shift and the connected climate effect. Thus, it is impossible to examine whether or not the proposed measures are enough to reach 2030 climate targets, writes kcw.

30 September 2019

  • The deputy parliamentary group leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party, Andreas Jung, has called for a carbon price cap of 180 euros per tonne by 2030, news agency dpa reports in an article carried by WirtschaftsWoche. "I think we should strive for the scientifically determined price of 180 euros per tonne of CO2," said the politician who had a leading role in negotiating the climate package for his party. Climate policy could only be successful by "planting seedlings that gradually grow bigger”, Jung added. According to the article, a CO2 price of 180 euros would translate into an increase of fuel prices of about 50 cents per litre. In its current climate strategy programme, the government has planned a gradual rise of carbon prices from 10 to 35 euros per tonne between 2021 and 2025 and capped the price at 60 euros in 2026. The cap prevailing after that year will be decided on in 2025, according to the programme.
  • The German government's climate package represents a "classic example of political compromise" and also illustrates the country's somewhat inconsistent attitude towards climate action, Deutsche Bank Research writes in an analysis of the 2030 programme. "Whilst a majority of Germans support more climate protection, only a few are willing to shoulder the financial burdens," the analysis says, concluding that the package as it stands ultimately will not bring about the "major shift away from established consumption patterns and production processes" that is needed to reach Germany's long-term emissions reduction goals.

27 September 2019

  • Most Germans say the government's climate action plan doesn’t go far enough in terms of emissions reduction, polls by public broadcaster ZDF show. Fifty-three percent of all respondents said the package is insufficient, 20 percent answered the climate package is enough to address the challenges, and 13 percent said it went too far.

26 September 2019

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel's Conservatives insist on a low initial price tag for CO2 emissions to secure public acceptance for the government's new climate strategy. In the first parliamentary debate on the package unveiled Friday, parties traded blows over the effectiveness and economic consequences of the Climate Action Programme 2030. Environment minister Schulze conceded that the entry price was set "very cautiously."

  • Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) are prepared to raise the climate package's initial CO2 price. Following widespread criticism that the currently envisaged starting price of 10 euros per tonne in the transport and heating sectors was much too low to have any significant effect, acting SPD leader Malu Dreyer suggested her party would agree to double the initial price tag for emissions.
  • The climate action package will be a "major legislative task", according to an analysis by the German Energy Agency (dena) and law firm BBH. The analysis assesses all 66 measures of the climate package, outlining which laws, ordinances and standards would need to be changed and concludes that in many cases, "the measures are associated with complex legislative procedures and will require extensive political coordination”.

25 September 2019

  • German environmental NGOs have used the publication of the latest report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the ocean and the cryosphere to renew their criticism of the government's new strategy for emissions reduction. The organisations said the 2030 climate package announced on Friday was a case in point for policymaking that does not fully appreciate the gravity of environmental challenges the world population is facing.
  • Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her government's climate policy against criticism by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Merkel told journalists in New York that while Thunberg's speech at the UN Climate Action Summit had been "rousing", it did not sufficiently express the way in which technology and innovation open up opportunities to achieve the objectives.

24 September 2019

  • The heads of Germany's environment agency UBA and energy agency dena doubt the effectiveness of the government's comprehensive climate policy package to help the country meet its 2030 emissions reduction target.

  • Higher energy efficiency, a "paradigm shift" in the circular economy, innovative production processes, as well as carbon capture and usage or storage could make Germany's industry CO2-neutral by 2050, but the government's new climate strategy does not provide the necessary incentives, according to environmental NGO WWF.

23 September 2019

  • The future of Germany's much criticised climate strategy hangs in the balance as the Green Party vowed to amend the package, and experts warned legal hurdles threatened the government's concept for a CO2 price.

20 September 2019 - Germany's government introduces 2030 Climate Action Programme

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